Check out photos from access to players and coaches during Week 15 as the Patriots prepare to play the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium this Sunday.
Q: **You've lost some very big name players on defense yet the team has done just as well – if not better. What has it been like fitting these new pieces into their new roles?
MP: You know, I'd say from the start, from the beginning everyone has to be ready to and be ready to step in. Certainly we have situations that come up by the player [and] by the series that someone has to go in and take a position and we expect them to do it at a high level. These guys do a great job of preparing each week to go out and do what it is that we are asking them to do. I think the guys have done a great job. I think really what we're trying to do right now is get better every week and try to improve. I think the guys are studying really hard and trying to learn their opponents and take the game plan each way and apply it. That's really kind of the biggest thing for us.
Q: **A few players mentioned Sealver Siliga's energy and the fun that he brings to the field. What does he bring to the meeting rooms and do you see the same thing from him?
MP: Sealver does a great job of preparing and he's very attentive in the meetings. He kind of just enjoys going out there and playing the game so that energy is great. I think things like that are contagious. I think we've got a lot of guys on defense that enjoy practice, enjoy the meetings; they enjoy the process. So when you have that and guys kind of feed off of that, it makes it fun so you're not out there just kind of grinding.
Q:What kind of growth have you seen from Jamie Collins?
MP: Obviously Jamie does a great job for us and [Dont'a] Hightower and those guys who've had to step up and take over from the linebacker position. All of the linebackers and our defensive ends, everyone kind of has a leadership role and goes out and does their job to the fullest of their ability. I think Jamie's done a great job of trying to understand from a full conceptual standpoint of what we're trying to get done. I think that's the biggest thing for him.
Q: **Are you always finding new ways to use his athleticism as part of the defense?
MP: I think just in general we kind of try and do that with everybody on defense as far as the guys that are going to be out there and the game plan and how we need to attack that opponent. Obviously Miami this week is a huge challenge for us in everything they present from the run game to their skill players. It's going to be another situation where we are really going to have to try to take away those guys and get after the quarterback and hopefully stop the run.
Q:How impressed have you been with the versatility Akeem Ayers has shown?
MP: For us it's more about just each week and I think it's important for us to kind of understand we're just trying to win that particular game and whatever that game plan is and hopefully those guys are executing that game plan to their fullest. Certainly he's done a great job of learning the system and trying to get our terminology and our scheme down. I really think, again, all of the guys – you've got to look at the defense as a whole – everyone is really contributing [and] everyone is out there ready to go. Everyone that has been active has played in the games. I think there are a lot of guys out there on the field that are doing a lot of really good things that maybe don't get the headlines. I think the defense as a whole, I'm just pleased with our work ethic right now and the way we're trying to attack our opponents and get better.
Q:What impresses you about Jarvis Landry?
MP: He's been a go-to guy for them and someone that the quarterback trusts. This guy has had a lot of production. It's really actually just added another depth to their offense, another element that you now have to go out and try to defend. They'll move him around enough where he's not always going to be stagnant in one position. I think they've really kind of developed him in a good, complementary way to the system and he certainly will be an issue to deal with.
Q:Ryan Tannehill's always posed a threat with his legs but have things changed to become even more of a threat with the changes in the offensive line without Branden Albert?
MP: He's always been able to run and get out of the pocket and that's certainly an issue. He's very fast. He's an extremely fast quarterback, so if he gets out in open space he's going to be able to create a lot of room and a lot of positive yardage. So it's certainly a big issue for us to contend with. He does a good job too of as he's scrambling, getting his eyes down field. Those receivers as so fast, so quick, they can burst and get vertical or come back to the ball. So, they do a good job in that scramble drill, you'll call it.
Q:What's been the key to getting the run defense under control since the start of the season?
MP: I think it's just the consistency of the guys out there. I think we've improved our technique through the course of the season. I think, again, it's a situation where guys are just trying to get better at their individual skill set, and then having guys out there in a consistent manner always helps out the defense. You've got guys out there that are playing a little bit more consistent and together – that helps.
Q:He doesn't carry the ball a lot, but when he does it goes for a lot of yards. What is the key for the defensive ends in limiting Ryan Tannehill's carries for big plays?
MP: He's done a great job of, he's kept the ball and run the ball at the best time possible. He's done a great job of really reading the defense and making that decision, because he doesn't keep it that much but when he does its usually a big play or it's usually a big gain. He really has been disciplined with the reads. He hasn't taken a lot of chances as far as, 'I think I can out run this guy.' It's been a pretty clean decision based on the scheme and how they are blocking it that, 'I'm going to get some good yardage here, I'm going to keep it and go.' Like I said he's very fast, so he can get vertical into the line of scrimmage pretty quick.
Q:Does that temper what the defensive ends can do in terms of pass rushing?
MP: Just defensively you've got to stop the play; you've got to stop that play. There are a lot of teams that run it and run variations of it. I think offenses now that have that system, if you look at that particular play or those types of plays, there's a combination of different threats that they can give the ball or throw the ball or hand it off or keep. So it's actually very complex as far as trying to defend it. You really have to play good, sound, assignment football.